[Dans le cadre de la préparation du spectacle Aux Corps prochains, prévu pour le printemps 2015, ont eu lieu au théâtre de Chaillot deux journées de réflexion autour de la phrase de Spinoza “Nul ne sait ce que peut un corps” (Ethique, II, 3), et de son commentaire par Deleuze, avec la participation de Thomas Dommange (Montréal) et Paola Marrati (Johns Hopkins, Baltimore). Le texte de la conférence de Paola Marrati, prononcée le 9 janvier 2014, n’étant pas disponible, nous publions ci-dessous une partie d’un article paru en anglais qui comporte des éléments développés par la conférencière. La conférence de Thomas Dommange est publiée dans la même rubrique de ce blog : http://denisguenoun.unblog.fr/spectacles-en-cours/aux-corps-prochains-sur-une-pensee-de-spinoza/conference-thomas-dommange-8-01-14/]
TIME AND AFFECTS
(extrait de : “Deleuze on Gender and sexual Difference”, Australian Feminist Studies, Vol. 21, No. 51, November 2006, ed. Routledge)
Problems and Freedom
In the second part of his Introduction to Metaphysics, ‘The Stating of Problems’, which opens the volume of collected essays entitled La Pensée et le mouvant, published in 1923 and rather unhappily translated as The Creative Mind, Henri Bergson challenges the tendency of philosophy to construct abstract metaphysical systems and its readiness to rely on generic concepts that merely express social habits embedded in language. Both attitudes are indeed complementary, and together they prevent philosophy from achieving its own freedom. Bergson writes:
“[These concepts] have most often been elaborated by the social organism in view of an object which has nothing to do with metaphysics. In order to form them society has cut up reality according to its needs. Why should philosophy accept a division which in all probability will not correspond to the articulation of the real? This division, however, it does usually accept. It accepts the problem as it is posited by language. It is there- fore condemned in advance to receive a ready-made solution or, at best, simply to choose between the two or three only possible solutions, which are co-eternal with this positing of the problem .. . But the truth is that in philosophy and even elsewhere it is a question of finding the problem and consequently of positing it, even more than solving it .. . But stating the problem is inventing it .. . Invention gives being to what did not exist.” (1992, 51)
What is at stake in this passage is a conception of philosophy and of thinking in general that reverses a hierarchy that is all the more powerful because it often goes unnoticed. We believe that the task of thinking consists in solving problems, in finding or producing correct answers and adequate solutions, no matter whether we are dealing with a field of knowledge or a field of social organisation. The creativity of thinking * scientific, technological, or political * would thus be exercised in the search for new solutions to problems that would, so to speak, present themselves ready made.
What is dangerous about this conception of thinking, according to Bergson, is precisely the privilege it accords to solutions to the detriment of problems, the denial of the power of problems as problems. A problem defines a field of possible experience, it sets out the meaning of the questions one can ask and prefigures the cases of its solution. Answers necessarily derive from the form of the problem, but the problem is not given in advance; it must be constituted. The freedom of thinking thus consists in the elaboration of problematic fields, and it depends on a critical attitude towards what is given, on our ability to experiment, to open up the limits of that which presents itself as necessary.
This is why the prejudice that has us believe that to think is to find solutions is an essentially social prejudice. According to Bergson, philosophy, however, has no reason to have its problems dictated by the ‘administrative archives of the state’ (1992, 50). The importance of this aspect of Bergson’s thought did not go unnoticed by Gilles Deleuze. In his Bergsonism, first published in 1966, Deleuze not only underlines the fundamental role that the concept of the problem plays in Bergson’s work, but he also sees in it one of the major contributions of Bergsonism (1991, 27).(1) Two years later, in Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition (1968), the idea that thinking is exercised in the quest for answers, that the domain of the true and the false concerns solutions alone, independent of the position of problems themselves, is described as one of the postulates of what he calls the ‘dogmatic image of thought’ (Deleuze 1994, chap. 3). If problems necessarily delimit the space of what is thinkable, the true and the false first of all concern the constitution of problems:
“Far from being concerned with solutions, truth and falsehood primarily affect problems. A solution always has the truth it deserves according to the problem to which it is a response, and the problem always has the solution it deserves in proportion to its own truth or falsity * in other words, in proportion to its sense.” (1994, 159)
To believe the opposite is an infantile prejudice, derived from the example of the ‘good’ student who merely has to answer the questions of a teacher whose authority is beyond doubt. It is a social prejudice,
“with the visible interest of maintaining us in an infantile state, which calls upon us to solve problems that come from elsewhere … Such is the origin of the grotesque image of culture that we find in examinations and government referenda as well as in newspaper competitions (where everyone is called upon to choose according to his or her taste, on condition that this taste coincides with that of everyone else). Be yourself, being understood that this self must be that of others.” (1994, 158) (2)
We must note that what is at stake for Deleuze and Bergson in this ‘right to problems’ (Deleuze 1994, 158) is as much the freedom of thinking as the freedom of experience. What we have of freedom depends on how we state our problems and on how we ask our questions; the very possibility of opening up the field of experience depends upon the truth, or sense, of the problems we are capable of setting up for ourselves. Experience and thinking cannot be separated from one another: hence the ethical and political dimension of philosophy, even when it does not explicitly take politics as its object.
If there is, or can be, a Deleuzian contribution to gender and queer theory it lies mainly, I would like to argue, in his attempt to change the way in which we understand the problem of the body, the very way in which we ask our questions about bodies.(3) While phenomenology introduced the question of one’s own body (le corps propre), of sexuality, and of death into a rather disincarnate philosophical tradition, thereby offering to feminist and gender theories some conceptual tools, Deleuze’s contribution is situated elsewhere. He provides an account of the temporal, affective, and physical becoming of bodies that, without denying their biological and social dimensions, is not confined to them. This conception of the becoming of bodies is closely related to issues in gender studies as well as to gender practices; that, at least, is the hypothesis I would like to develop in this paper.
What Can a Body Do?
Deleuze’s conception of the body is laid out mainly, if not exclusively, in his reading of Spinoza. One of the key chapters of Spinoza: Expressionism in Philosophy, published in 1968, is significantly entitled ‘What Can a Body Do?’ In this erudite book, which still today constitutes one of the most powerful studies of Spinoza’s thought, Deleuze develops several themes that are essential to understanding his own philosophical project. The ontological thesis of the univocity of being, the difference between numeric distinction and formal distinction, and the question of expression are some examples; his conception of the body is another one.(4)
The chapter in question treats the problem of the relation, in Spinoza, of substance to its finite modes, and it proposes an interpretation of active and passive affections and of their correlation in the finite modes. For the present purpose, I will abstract from the general context and focus only on the conception of the body. According to Spinoza, all bodies, no matter how small, are always composed of a very large number of extensive parts. What defines the individuality of a specific body is the relation that establishes itself between its parts, and such a relation is one of a composition and decomposition that is necessarily endowed with a certain kind of elasticity. Leaving childhood or entering old age, for example, are processes made up of so many insensible or abrupt changes in the singular relation that characterises a body (Deleuze 1992, 222). But what constitutes the determinate relation of a body, its individuality? Following what rules do extensive parts, and parts of parts, compose and decompose? Deleuze remarks that there is a physical inspiration to Spinoza’s conception of the body, more precisely a kinetic model: the compositions and decompositions of the parts are effectuated according to relations of rest and movement, of speed and slowness; what determines connections and disconnections among particles are spatio-temporal dynamisms (1988, 123, 1992, 204).(5)
It follows from this kinetic definition both that all bodies stand out among other bodies and that their limits have nothing essential about them; they can vary and stand out or overlap differently. The individuality of a body is a singular relation of speed and slowness, but this relation is not only endowed with a certain elasticity, it can also be taken in by other relations, an individual body can combine with other bodies and become a part of a different individual. To use Diderot’s metaphor in D’Alembert’s Dream, a text that links up with the Spinozist tradition, the whole universe is like a spider’s web in which all threads are somehow related, and what we call individuals are the connections among threads, while, of course, the threads can always be arranged differently (1966, 168).(6)
A body, however, is not only made up of kinetic relations of rest and movement: it also has a power to affect and to be affected, since the very nature of the extensive parts that compose it is to affect one another. Deleuze remarks that in his definition of the body Spinoza in fact proceeds from the parts to their affections, and from the affections of parts to the affections of the existing mode as a whole. Now, this apparently harmless idea has consequences that are far from harmless since it implies that the individuality of a body is defined as much by a certain relation between its parts as by its power of affecting and of being affected:
“A horse, a fish, a man, or even two men compared one with the other, do not have the same capacity to be affected: they are not affected by the same things, or not affected by the same things in the same way.” (Deleuze 1992, 217)
It is important to notice that the term ‘affect’ does not, in this context, refer to the psychological domain of subjective emotions and feelings, but to a capacity of acting and suffering that constitutes all bodies in general as well as the different parts of a singular body. The affective individuality of a body is thus no psychological metaphor; rather, subjective feelings presuppose the domain of affects in which they are rooted. In phenomenological terms: the body is affective as such, in its own materiality, if you like; the body is affective before being a lived body (corps ve´cu) or even before being my own body (corps propre).
We must thus add another aspect to the kinetic dimension of the relations of rest and movement that defines the (variable) limits of a body. According to this other aspect, which Deleuze calls dynamic, the singularity of a body lies within the limits of its affective power. In other terms: the question of the structure of a body, of the composition of its relations, is equivalent in Spinoza to the question of nature and the limits of its power to be affected. For Spinoza, thus, the traditional question ‘What is a body?’ is strictly synonymous with another question, the question ‘What can a body do?’ (Deleuze 1992, 218). We cannot know the nature of a body if we do not know its power. The fact that these two questions become equivalent must not hide the major displacement operated, at least in Deleuze’s interpretation, by Spinoza’s Ethics.
The question ‘What is a body?’ in fact refers us to the description of a structure, which is in principle exhaustive. To know a body * whatever it might be: a star, an organ, an animal, or a society * amounts to knowing its constitutive parts and the laws of their organisation. Whatever the difficulties, de facto, of attaining such knowledge, nothing, de jure, limits or complicates it. To draw up a list of all the elements that compose a social body or a galaxy and of the laws that govern their relations may be an arduous task, but the question asked is as simple as the form of the answer is clear. In fact, for many bodies, such knowledge is available and familiar to us. We know well, for example, which organs form the human body and what functions they ensure.
Do we thereby know everything there is to know about a body (for example, about the human body)? In a sense, yes, no doubt. I know that I breathe with my lungs and that I see with my eyes. From the point of view of physiology that is all there is to know (even if it should be noted that contemporary medicine and biology work in more complex frameworks than those suggested by the classical approach). Deleuze claims, however, that we can obtain a very different perspective if we consider a body from the point of view of its affective power; if, instead of limiting ourselves to a classification by genus and species, we try to draw up a list of affects. A horse and a cow belong to two different animal species, and yet there are more differences between a race horse and a farm horse than between a farm horse and a cow because the farm horse and the cow share affects unknown to the race horse (Deleuze and Guattari 2000, 257).(7)
To be sure, this is not to deny differences of species between bodies and certainly even less to deny the organic structure of animal life. The question is a different one; it is concerned with showing how a purely organic conception * just as a classification by species and genus * does not tell us everything there is to know about a body. Deleuze maintains that it would be a mistake to assume that this kind of knowledge, necessary as it may be, could give all possible answers to the question of the body, that is, that it could exhaust the problem of the body. In other words, according to Deleuze, framed in terms of structure, the knowledge one can attain is a general, or generic one: I know what a horse as an animal species is, the cow as species, or I know what the human species is. This is all good and very useful in certain contexts, but such a knowledge of the species does not yet tell me what exactly this singular, individual body can do. Knowledge of the species does not tell me what a body can do.(8)
The singularity of bodies is neither generic nor organic. It is affective: a body is defined by the affects it is capable of, in action as in passion. What is crucial is that this power is not delimited in advance, which is why Spinoza’s new understanding of the body, on Deleuze’s reading, is best expressed in the statement, ‘we do not yet know what a body can do’ (Deleuze 1992, 26). What is referred to here is not a contingent limit of our knowledge that should be overcome; on the contrary, what is at stake is the impossibility, in principle, of knowing the power of a body in advance. Even more importantly, it should be noted that such an impossibility is not a necessary, however regrettable, limit imposed upon human knowledge, as for instance in Kant’s articulation of the finitude of intuition. Instead of marking a limit of knowledge, the fact that we do not yet know what a body can do opens up a field of experience or of experimentation, a field that constitutes the very domain of ethics and of freedom.
Indeed, if we do not yet know what a body can do, it is because the active and passive affects of which it is capable are not given in advance by its organic or specific structure but are dependent on encounters with other bodies. What we have to find out is how the affects of one body can arrange themselves with the affects of another body, how one exchanges actions and passions with the other. But while everything hinges on encounters, it does not follow that these encounters are all the same: some encounters are good, that is to say, they increase the power of a body; others are bad since they reduce the power of a body or even destroy the singular relation that constitutes it. It is this aspect of Spinoza’s thought which constitutes its properly ethical inspiration. Its importance for Deleuze must not be underestimated because it is precisely in these terms that Deleuze himself understands the realm of ethics. It is certainly true that Deleuze criticises moral notions of good and evil as well as abstract normative standards, but he does so in the name of an immanent ethics. That is to say, that the problem is not how we are to free ourselves from values and hierarchies * we neither can nor should * but it is instead how we conceive of values and hierarchies.
The value of beings and things should not be measured by some external principle, a transcendental law, or the conformity to norms, no matter whether they be social, religious, or moral, since in the end all these come down to the same. According to Deleuze, the criteria of value are purely immanent: ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are always a matter of what increases or diminishes the power of a given body, and the ethical question is whether a being can live up to the limits of which it is capable. In this sense, even the notion of a hierarchy becomes purely immanent: it does not compare beings with one another in order to rank them. On the contrary, hierarchy evaluates the power of each singular being in relation to itself (1994, 37).
From this ethical perspective, a distinction has to be made between the capacity to act and that to suffer. While the capacity of a body to be affected remains more or less constant, whatever the relative proportion of active and passive affections may be, the passive affects, the sad passions, distance and detach the body from its power of being; the active affects, joy or even beatitude, on the contrary, bring it closer to its power of existing.
For Deleuze, reader of Bergson as much as of Spinoza, the notion of a power of existing (conatus) coincides with that of life. Power is the power of life, and life is creative: everything that is cruel and intolerable, the injustice that crushes beings and things does not belong to life, but to what oppresses and disfigures life. Of course, this is not a philosophical thesis one could argue for or refute. It is a presupposition that is necessarily pre-philosophical, but without it philosophy would have nothing to rest on. You could call it, perhaps, an act of faith.(9)
Becoming. On Time and Affects
Does thinking about the body in terms of what it can do * instead of asking what it is * hold any consequences for gender and queer theory? To address this question, I would like firstly to deal with the very distinction between sex and gender. This distinction has played, and continues to play, a decisive role in feminist and gender theory. At least since Simone de Beauvoir’s famous claim in The Second Sex that ‘one is not born a woman, but rather becomes a woman’ (1973, 301) it has opened up new directions for research and an entire field of studies whose theoretical and political importance it would be hard to overestimate. Whatever the historical and strategic importance of the conceptual distinction between sex and gender, however, its sustainability has become increasingly problematic. Even if significantly modified in a wide variety of ways, it almost unavoidably reintroduces a divide between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ whose pertinence is more and more doubtful. Within its framework, it is difficult not to think ‘sex’ as supposedly natural and in consequence fixed, and ‘gender’ as supposedly cultural and as such socially and politically constructed. The obvious gain would be, of course, that gender would hence be the object of a possible change in its meaning through political and cultural struggles and negotiations. The shortcomings of this approach are also evident. Behind the conception of sex as a bare biological fact lies the assumption of the stability of life and living forms; and of a nature without history implicitly or explicitly conceived of at once as a blank slate upon which humans project their social forms of life, and as the absolute limit imposed upon human agency. Sex and gender are two sides of the same way of understanding nature simultaneously: as an empty frame and as an unavoidable destiny. Yet both fail to see all the ways in which human and non-human forms of life are intertwined along lines that the distinction between nature and culture certainly cannot map.
In this regard, contemporary developments in the biosciences and biotechnologies are just the most visible aspect of the pressing need for us to acknowledge the mobility and transformability of living forms and processes, including the most ‘natural’ ones: those of sexual reproduction and gender identifications. At the same time, issues of life and death tend to become more and more a crucial issue for state policies and regulations. They do so not only in the form of the medical treatment of diseases and disabilities, of sexualities and reproduction, but also in the ways in which different forms of kinship are either legitimated or prohibited at a global scale (policies of adoption, migration, and public health, etc.). Life, death, birth, disease, mourning, parenting can no longer be understood and experienced as purely ‘natural events’, assuming this was ever the case. Both sex and gender are categories too broad to work with.(10)
Deleuze’s thought is situated largely outside this web of problematic distinctions, hence its potential interest. Bodies * and souls * dwell on one and the same plane, a plane of immanence, where ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ partake in a single process of becoming instead of dividing themselves or opposing each other.(11) Bodies thus compose and decompose themselves along lines that have nothing to do with the lines that separate the natural from the technical or the social. A hand and a tool, be it a stone or a computer, constitute a singular body, which is in turn related, or unrelated, to other bodies. In our context, this means that we are not born with a body endowed with a more or less determined biological sex on which social norms inscribe a gender. In that case, we would be left to accept these norms, contest them, or deploy them differently, always constrained by the limits imposed by our biological sex (or the current state of biotechnologies). For Deleuze, however, the distribution is of a different kind. Each body is traversed and constituted by biological, institutional, technological, and social lines whose relations are complex and variable. Each of these layers has its degree of rigidity, a tendency to immobilise, to freeze, but they also have an intrinsic mobility, a possibility of becoming.(12) Our freedom, therefore, does not emerge in the margins of transformation or subversion for which a given culture allows, independently of a more or less unchanging and timeless nature. Freedom, rather, finds its place at the intersection of all these lines, in a possibility of becoming.
What exactly are we to understand by ‘becoming’? Deleuze defines the affects constitutive of bodies as becomings: affects are becomings that unfold in time or, more precisely, affects are a mode of time, although not a chronological one (2000, 238).While it is impossible to engage here in a fully fledged exposition of Deleuze’s thinking of time, I shall try nonetheless to clarify in what sense becoming is a mode of time and how it is related to questions of gender and sexual difference.
The problem Deleuze addresses is how to conceptualise a becoming that traverses all fixed identities. In this context, it does not matter whether this fixity is the rigidity of social functions and norms, or of biological and organic forms, or even that of the barriers that separate classes, sexes, ages, and natural kingdoms. The task is to think of a becoming that takes away with it everything that assigns us to a determinate and fixed place in the order of beings and things. For instance, Deleuze viewed all of Virginia Woolf’s work (not just Orlando) as testifying to the power of becoming (2000, 276). Literature in general does not cease to encounter all sorts of becoming: becoming-animal, -woman, -child, -music or -imperceptible. There is the becoming-vegetal of Albertine in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, or the becoming-rat in Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Lord Chandos’ Letter, or Mrs. Dalloway’s becoming-imperceptible in Woolf’s homonymous novel, to name only a few of the examples given by Deleuze in A Thousand Plateaus and elsewhere (2000, 293). The fact that most of these examples come from literature must not lead us to assume * erroneously * that becoming is of the order of the imaginary, the fantastic, or that it is a process of identification in the psychoanalytic sense of the term. (Nor, for that matter, is literature in Deleuze’s view.) But what is the reality of becoming?
Let us follow Deleuze’s analysis of one of his favourite examples: the passage of Hofmannsthal’s story in which Lord Chandos recounts the experience of contemplating rats in agony and claims that it is in him, across him, that ‘the soul of the animal bares its teeth at monstrous fate’ (2000, 258). We are not dealing here with a feeling of pity, triggered by some sort of vague identification with the dying animal. Nor are we dealing with an imitation: Lord Chandos does not begin to imitate the rat. Least of all are we dealing with ‘being’ a rat through some mysterious organic metamorphosis. If, then, Lord Chandos’s becoming-rat is nonetheless real, it is because becoming eludes any identification as well as any imitation. Becoming is a process or crossing-over (passage) that finds its consistency in itself and not in the allegedly fixed terms from which it comes and to which it goes:
“Becoming produces nothing other than itself. We fall in a false alternative if we say that you either imitate or you are. What is real is the becoming itself, not the supposedly fixed terms through which that which becomes passes. Becoming can and should be qualified as becoming animal even in the absence of a term that would be the animal-become. The becoming-animal of the human being is real even if the animal the human being becomes is not … “(2000, 238)
What, then, is the reality of becoming? What does such a reality consist of? According to Deleuze, the reality of becoming is the reality of an encounter between affects of bodies that produces a new affect. It is the Spinozist conception of the affective dimension of bodies that allows Deleuze to think of a becoming as improbable as the becoming-rat of a man or Albertine’s becoming-flower as real, not just as imaginary identifications. It is in this sense that what a body can do is not, and cannot be, exhaustively determined by its organic structure. There are encounters between bodies, compositions of affects we do not yet know anything about. Such encounters, when they take place, create new affects, just as real as they are unassignable from a physiological or organic point of view. If we do not know what a body can do it is because we do not know what a body can become, of what new affects it is capable. The reality of becoming is an affective one and, indeed, as Deleuze writes, ‘becomings are affects’ (2000, 314).
To be sure, bodies have forms, organs, functions; they are distributed among well-determined categories and genres; and they can be seen as substances or clearly individuated subjects. It would be absurd, and dangerous, to deny this aspect of things. But this is not Deleuze’s point. For him, it is not a matter of denying a reality we all know very well, even too well. It is a matter instead of thinking another aspect of the real, an aspect of which we have some sort of experience as well, and which coexists with, while not being reducible to, the first aspect. Certainly, a human being is not a rat or a flower, but a human being can compose his or her affects with those of a rat or of a flower: a composition of affects can always take place between completely different individuals, across species and kingdoms. Becoming is nothing but such a composition of affects, but such a composition of affects is not nothing: it has reality and consequences, it has a creative power (2000, 238).
The reality of becoming has its own singularity, its mode of individuation, and its temporality, although this temporality is different from those of people, things, or subjects. These latter obey chronological time, the time that measures people and things, organic and social life, following the linear path of the succession of instants. Becoming consists in a purely qualitative temporal event that obeys no chronological law. The Spinozist inspiration merges here, as is so often the case in Deleuze, with the Bergsonian one. The distinction does not lie between the enduring and ephemeral, between, let us say, the stubborn constraints of ‘real’ time on the one hand, and some sort of fugitive emotional state on the other. The difference is rather the one Bergson analyses, between a spatialised concept of time, which thinks succession in terms of juxtaposition, and time as duration, as qualitative change (2000, 238).(13) Literature may help, once more:
“… never again will Mrs. Dalloway say to herself, ‘I am this, I am that, he is this, he is that.’ And ‘She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time she was outside, looking on … She always had the feeling it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2000,263)”
If literature, and art in general, provide the best examples of becoming, it is not because their temporality is, at best, an ‘aesthetic’ experience. It is rather because the purely affective, or qualitative, nature of becoming has no easily traceable archive outside the realm, precisely, of art. Along with the well-ordered chronological phases of our lives * that take us, say, from birth to death, from childhood to adolescence, from adulthood to old age * we all experience at times, or we all could experience, a becoming-child or a becoming-girl, that traverses all ages and all sexes. This is a becoming that does not efface birth dates or ‘biological’ sexes but which also is not confined to these and has just as much power and reality. This, at least, is Deleuze’s claim.
Translated by Nils F. Schott
1. It is worth noting that ‘problem’, not ‘need’, is the main biological category. Life forms are cases of solutions to problems; hence life for Bergson, instead of an irrational force, is a creative power that includes and produces forms of rationality. See chapter 2 of Bergson (1998).
2. Along with Bergson, Nietzsche is obviously the other main reference on this issue.
3. With a few exceptions, Deleuze has been less discussed in feminist theories than other philosophers of his generation like Foucault or Derrida. For a history of Deleuze’s reception in feminist and gender studies, see Claire Colebrook’s ‘Introduction’ to Ian Buchanan and Claire Colebrook’s Deleuze and Feminist Theory (2000). Some feminist interpretations of Deleuze will be discussed below.
4. It would be a mistake to separate in Deleuze’s oeuvre his studies in the history of philosophy * Hume, Bergson, Nietzsche, Spinoza, Kant or Leibniz * or literature and art * Proust, Kafka, Bacon, cinema * from his other works. It would also be a mistake to separate the books he wrote alone from those he co-signed with Fe´ lix Guattari. This is not to deny the contribution and originality of Guattari as a theorist but to claim the consistency of Deleuze’s philosophy. This cannot be cut up according to quick periodisations, let alone according to a divide between the ‘history of philosophy’ and ‘philosophy as such’. This is a divide he explicitly rejects, and for very good reasons. Franc¸ ois Zourabichvili strongly insists on this point in his introduction to the new edition of Une philosophie de l’e´ve´nement (2004, 5 6).
5. On the idea of spatio-temporal dynamisms as syntheses of speeds, directions, and rhythms that subtend perceptible spaces and qualities just like organic and inorganic bodies, see also Deleuze (1994, 244ff.) and ‘The Method of Dramatization’ (2003, 134).
6. Another metaphor is that of a swarm of bees. In a different register, Pedro Almodovar’s film All About My Mother (1999) is also a good example of a Spinozist conception of bodies and individualities.
7. Like Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze is also influenced by von Uexku¨ ll’s work on animal worlds, whom he considers as developing an ethology consistent with Spinoza’s insights. On the question of ethology in Spinoza and Deleuze’s interpretation of it, see Gatens and Lloyd (1999, 101ff.).
8. Rosi Braidotti, who for a long time has drawn attention to the importance of Deleuze’s conception of the body for feminist theory, has repeatedly argued that Deleuze can help to articulate a new form of materialism in which the corporeal materiality of the body is not erased and at the same time is not reduced to a biological given. In her view, such a new materialism is strategically critical for feminist theory and the production of a feminine feminist subject. It would allow us to think an ‘embodied and therefore sexually differenciated structure of the speaking subject’ to play against a traditionally universal (disembodied and male) subject (1994b, 161). See also her Nomadic Subjects (1994a). It is not the purpose of this paper to discuss such a strategy on its own terms, even if it should be noted that the very same philosophical tradition has more often than not identified femininity with, precisely, materiality and corporeality and, therefore, those notions should be used carefully. What I would like to remark, for the present purpose, is that the notion of embodiment, taken too literally, fails to grasp all the implications of the shift from the question of ‘What is a body?’ to that of ‘What can a body do?’ This second question, as will become increasingly clear, concerns a temporal and affective becoming of bodies that goes beyond the phenomenological notion of an embodied subject and is irreducible to this notion.
9. On the necessity of pre-philosophical presuppositions for philosophy, see Deleuze and Guattari (1994, 18ff.). On the importance and pervasiveness of dimensions of faith in all the layers of social and culture life and their irreducibility to religious creeds, see William E. Connolly (2005).
10. In my view, Judith Butler’s work * and not only her most recent texts but already Gender Trouble (1999) and Bodies That Matter (1993) * aims precisely at undoing the distinction between sex and gender. The emphasis on performativity is a way of displacing the distinction between ‘biological sex’ and ‘cultural gender’ and not of claiming that everything is ‘culturally constructed’.
11. The importance of this aspect of Deleuze’s has been underlined by Rosi Braidotti (2000). In the same volume, Eleanor Kaufman develops the other side of Deleuze’s philosophy of immanence and univocity, which looks at the incorporeal dimension of thought (2000).
12. In the terminology of A Thousand Plateaus (2000), the first are the hard, or molar, segments, opposed to the molecular layers. It is both philosophically and politically critical to note, however, that for Deleuze the molecular does not coincide as such with everything that is positive and vital: the description of fascism as a molecular phenomenon should be a sufficient warning for readers against such a misunderstand-ing.
13. Here, in A Thousand Plateaus, we are referred back to the Bergsonian idea of a coexistence of very different durations, superior or inferior to ours, all of them in communication. On Deleuze’s interpretation of Bergson’s complex concept of tempor- ality, see also my Gilles Deleuze: Cine´ma et philosophie (2004). Elisabeth Grosz (2000) has underlined the importance of Bergson’s conception of time for Deleuze and called attention to the political bearings, in particular for feminist movements, of a notion of time that proposes an unpredictable future. She does not, however, seem to make the distinction between ‘the new’ and ‘the future’ that is crucial to both Bergson and Deleuze and without which their call for futurity might be understood as just one more version of the belief in progress and in a teleology inherent to history.
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Paola Marrati is Professor of Humanities & Philosophy in the Humanities Center and the Department of Philosophy at The Johns Hopkins University and is Directrice de Programme de Recherche at the Colle` ge International de Philosophie in Paris. She is the author of Genesis and Trace: Derrida Reading Husserl and Heidegger (Kluwer, 1998; Stanford University Press, 2005) and of Deleuze: Philosophie et cine´ma (PUF, 2003 forthcoming in an expanded English edition from the Johns Hopkins University Press).